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May 4, 2008: Could It Be?

May 4, 2008

Might the authorities really have something on Ehud Olmert serious enough to topple the government?

It hasn’t happened until now , in spite of the four investigations into his alleged wrong doing that have already been started. They all seem to hang in the air, going no where.

But this one — which I alluded to in my last posting — has a different feel. The investigation was expedited, and he was questioned in his official residence for 90 minutes on Friday by the National Fraud Investigation Unit, under caution. Police would say no more that than this was a new issue and not connected to one of the other investigations. Precisely what is being investigated, however, is a mystery, because of a court gag order.

Today it made the news that "senior law enforcement officials" are saying that this criminal investigation is so severe that he will have to resign.

In the opposition, forces are mounting to bring the government down. MK Silvan Shalom (Likud), claiming that "the government of Ehud Olmert has reached the end of its road," said he was working to dissolve the Knesset when it opens its summer session in two weeks.

And from Olmert’s own coalition , MK Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) called on Olmert to suspend himself immediately because the scope of charges against him was "unprecedented."

"It has been proven beyond any doubt that the prime minister can’t be under serial investigations and also lead the country," she told Israel Radio. "Olmert is stuck up to his neck in investigations. We cannot have a prime minister who is serially investigated by police…"


Of course, Olmert’s office is issuing statements declaring that nothing is seriously amiss and that everything will work out.

And there was someone else — he should hang his head in shame — who came out in defense of Olmert: Head of the Shas faction, Eli Yishai, who declared, "I am certain that the prime minister knows what to do, and when the investigations become clear, I’m sure everything will be fine."

I was explaining to a native Israeli today about the American concept of politicians who are "Teflon," to whom no charges or accusations stick. "Ah," he responded, "Teflon does wear out."

We can hope…


Speaking of my mention of this last time , I thank all of those who caught my error: that I spoke of Attorney General Mofaz, when I clearly meant Mazuz. Two names, both starting with M and ending in Z. And I appreciate those who observed that I had just written about Mofaz, thereby compounding the possibility of this error. At any rate, please be alerted to my "goof" and the correction.


This seems to be a time of hope dangled before us, without certainties:

I wrote the other day about a report that our chief negotiator Tzipni Livni had enraged PA chief negotiator Ahmed Qurei by bringing to him a map that showed Israel retaining major settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria, as well as the Jordan Valley.

On Friday, Khaled Abu Toameh , of the Jerusalem Post, who usually gets it right, reported on Abbas’s deep depression after returning from his recent meeting with Bush. Seems Bush told him not to expect to have a Palestinian state in everything beyond the Green Line. Abbas was upset that Bush indicated he was not going to push Israel on the issue of settlements.


This certainly provides a modicum of hope. First, in terms of what the US is seeking. "The Americans have adopted the Israeli policy," one Palestinian official said. "When you hear Bush, you think you are listening to Ehud Olmert."

Well — if you will allow a touch of black humor — a Bush that sounds like Olmert is not necessarily terribly "pro-Israel."

But there’s an important issue being played out here . When Ariel Sharon was about to force through his "disengagement" plan for pulling Jews out of Gush Katif in Gaza, he touted a letter from April 14, 2004, that he had received from Bush, which said, in part:

"In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949…[essentially the Green Line].

Sharon said this was the trade-off for our pulling out of Gaza — the US would support our right to retain major settlement blocs in any negotiations with the Palestinians. It has been a cornerstone of Israeli policy when existing major settlements have been enlarged to accommodate natural growth.

Except that it hasn’t exactly played out as Sharon said it would. Rice, certainly, has worked diligently to distance US policy from this letter, even criticizing Israeli building in eastern Jerusalem, which Israel considers fully part of the Israeli capital. And not so long ago, National Security Advisor Steven Hadley suggested that the letter had been aimed at securing domestic support for Sharon’s plan, and must be considered in that context.

Thus does Bush’s current position potentially have real import.


Then, too, there is hope because more and more it seems that there is not likely to be a meeting of the minds regarding a Palestinian state — and thus no agreement of any sort between Israel and the PA before Bush leaves office.

Abu Toameh cites that same PA official mentioned above as saying that the PA was no longer pinning any hope on the administration helping achieve an agreement between the Palestinians and Israelis.

"The Bush administration has lost it credibility as an honest broker," he said. "We will now have to wait for the next US administration."


And what will happen with a new US administration? From the US side that remains to be seen (and I shudder at some of the possibilities). But from the PA side, there are real concerns, which is one of the reasons Abu Toameh says Abbas is quite depressed: Abbas is afraid that if he doesn’t forge a deal for a Palestinian state in the next few months Hamas is likely to take over Judea and Samaria.

That, of course, leads to another question: Why would the US back an entity so weak that its own leader believes it may cave in a matter of months?

Obviously, the answer lies with some notion that if only Abbas could present the people with a fait accompli regarding a deal for a state, then he would suddenly become strong enough to take on Hamas. But I’m not buying it. Because Hamas would work as the spoiler in such a situation.


Before leaving this subject, I must point out that there are also rumors that are unsettling. Some, unconfirmed, refer to planned actions by the government that constitute a sort of pull out, leaving settlers high and dry with regard to security and support of various sorts — this in order to "encourage" them to leave voluntarily.

Additionally, Haaretz ran a piece about the mayor of Ma’aleh Adumim, who reported that after a visit from Tzipi Livni he had an uneasy sense that she was hoping to give away parts of Jerusalem and placate the people by joining Ma’aleh Adumim to what remained of Jerusalem.


Abbas, by the way, has not been well since he returned from the US and underwent a heart catheterizatio
n procedure in Jordan last week. He’s speaking about resigning, but I’m not yet ready to take that seriously, as he speaks about resigning frequently without quite doing so.


Rice blew — I mean flew — into town last night. She has met with Olmert, and Abbas, and is scheduled to also meet with Barak and Livni, and Fayyad, in the course of her 36 hour visit.

In a Ramallah press conference after meeting with Abbas , she said, a peace deal is still "achievable" by the end of year. This might lead one to wonder what she’s been inhaling.

She alluded to Israel’s settlement policy as prejudicing the final outcome of an agreement. And she suggested we might be doing more to improve the quality of life for Palestinians. By this, she is –ever oblivious to Israel’s security needs — making reference to the possibility of our taking down more roadblocks.

We can always count on Condoleezza Rice.


During that Ramallah press conference , Abbas, according to YNet, said that, "Ninety percent of the talks have been completed."

Come on! Would he be depressed if this were so? Would he be upset at not having the ’67 line as the border of a Palestinian state? The borders are theoretically the easiest of the core issues — refugees and the status of Jerusalem being more thorny. If the border issue isn’t resolved, where is the rest of it?

It becomes farcical, really.


Six hundred PA police have now entered Jenin , in a bid to establish law and order in a city that has been run by armed thugs.

The PA police commander , Col. Wassim al-Jayoussi, said that "The police force came to Jenin to help in imposing law and order. There will be only one authority and one security force here."

He called on all residents to hand over illegal weapons , and on all wanted criminals to surrender to the police, warning that anyone who did not comply would be arrested.


Kassams fired at Sderot today hit a mini-market, a home and a cemetery.

The Palestinians in Gaza today also fired mortar shells at trucks attempting to transfer food and fuel to the Gazans. As a result the IDF was forced to close the Karni border crossing and the Nahal Oz fuel terminal.

Once again, the bewildering spectacle of terrorists undermining the possibility of help for their own people. Police said that approximately 50 trucks of supplies were forced to turn back.




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